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Clemson's secondary should remain strong

On paper, it looks like one of Clemson's biggest question marks this fall will be in the secondary, where the Tigers will have to replace what might have been their top cornerback duo in about two decades. Chris Chancellor and Crezdon Butler had combined for 20 career interceptions and 85 passes defensed over the past four years. And it was no coincidence that Clemson ranked in the top 20 in the nation in pass defense during that time.

Despite the graduation of Butler and Chancellor, though, those within the program are expecting the secondary to yet again be a strength of the defense. Here's why:

  • The leader of the defense returns: Safety DeAndre McDaniel led the ACC and ranked third in the nation in interceptions with eight last year, tied for the most in school history. He had 102 tackles to rank fourth on the team and was the only player in college football last year with at least eight interceptions and 100 tackles.

  • Marcus Gilchrist to cornerback: It's a good experiment for the spring, and Gilchrist can handle it. He was second on the team with 107 tackles as a starting safety last year. Gilchrist has played cornerback before, and the confidence the staff has in freshman Rashard Hall at safety would allow Clemson to make this move.

  • Depth and options: If Gilchrist locks up one starting cornerback job, the other is wide open. One front-runner would be senior Byron Maxwell, who had 36 tackles last year and two interceptions as a reserve cornerback. He was also the top special-teams tackler with 15. Other candidates include Coty Sensabaugh, who had 14 tackles and an interception, and Xavier Brewer, who had 15 tackles in 2009.